Workflow Management Based on Mobile Agent Technology

Workflow Management Based on Mobile Agent Technology

Marina Flores-Badillo (CINVESTAV Unidad Guadalajara, Mexico) and Ernesto López-Mellado (CINVESTAV Unidad Guadalajara, Mexico)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-849-9.ch237
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Abstract

Nowadays Information Systems (IS) are designed for individual task execution control allowing coordinating, monitoring, and supporting the logistical aspects of a business process, in other words, the IS has to manage the flow of work through the organization. The WorkFlow Management represents a critical issue for achieving enterprise competitiveness among organizations. Many companies have realized that the business processes (BP) within their organizations, and between the companies and their partners have not been clearly described and there are not enough techniques and methods to automate the processes. The Workflow Management Coalition (WFMC) states that workflow (WF) is concerned with the automation of procedures where documents, information, or tasks are passed to the participants according to a defined set of rules to achieve, or contribute to, an overall business goal (WfMC, 1999). Another definition of WF can be found in (Rusinkiewicz & Seth, 1994) where workflows are activities involving the coordinated execution of multiple tasks performed by different processing entities (persons or machines). A task or process involves a piece of work and a process entity which executes the work. Workflow Management (WFM) is a fast evolving technology which is increasingly being exploited by businesses in a variety of industries. Its primary characteristic is the automation of processes involving combinations of human and machine-based activities (Aalst & Hee, 2002), (Aalst, 1998). A Workflow Management System (WFMS) provides procedural automation of a business process by management of the sequence of work activities and the invocation of appropriate human and/or IT resources associated with the various activity steps. Although the most prevalent use of WFMS is within the office environment in staff intensive operations such as insurance, banking, legal and general administrations, etc, it is also applicable to some classes of industrial and manufacturing applications (WfMC, 1995). WFMS needs to integrate other technologies such that agent technology, which provides flexible, distributed, and intelligent solutions for business process management. This work presents a methodology for mobile agentbased WFMS development. The proposed methodology consists of a modular and gradual specification of the system where a mobile agent guides the process through organizational units and executes different tasks. Several mobile agents evolve through the system executing concurrently their assigned task.
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Introduction

Nowadays Information Systems (IS) are designed for individual task execution control allowing coordinating, monitoring, and supporting the logistical aspects of a business process, in other words, the IS has to manage the flow of work through the organization.

The WorkFlow Management represents a critical issue for achieving enterprise competitiveness among organizations. Many companies have realized that the business processes (BP) within their organizations, and between the companies and their partners have not been clearly described and there are not enough techniques and methods to automate the processes.

The Workflow Management Coalition (WFMC) states that workflow (WF) is concerned with the automation of procedures where documents, information, or tasks are passed to the participants according to a defined set of rules to achieve, or contribute to, an overall business goal (WfMC, 1999). Another definition of WF can be found in (Rusinkiewicz & Seth, 1994) where workflows are activities involving the coordinated execution of multiple tasks performed by different processing entities (persons or machines). A task or process involves a piece of work and a process entity which executes the work.

Workflow Management (WFM) is a fast evolving technology which is increasingly being exploited by businesses in a variety of industries. Its primary characteristic is the automation of processes involving combinations of human and machine-based activities (Aalst & Hee, 2002), (Aalst, 1998).

A Workflow Management System (WFMS) provides procedural automation of a business process by management of the sequence of work activities and the invocation of appropriate human and/or IT resources associated with the various activity steps. Although the most prevalent use of WFMS is within the office environment in staff intensive operations such as insurance, banking, legal and general administrations, etc, it is also applicable to some classes of industrial and manufacturing applications (WfMC, 1995). WFMS needs to integrate other technologies such that agent technology, which provides flexible, distributed, and intelligent solutions for business process management.

This work presents a methodology for mobile agent-based WFMS development. The proposed methodology consists of a modular and gradual specification of the system where a mobile agent guides the process through organizational units and executes different tasks. Several mobile agents evolve through the system executing concurrently their assigned task.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mobile Agent: A program that can migrate from a computer to other computer within a heterogeneous network. The program chooses when and where to migrate. It can suspend its execution at an arbitrary point, transport to another computer and resume execution in the new computer

Process Definition: The representation of a business process in a form which supports automated manipulation, such as modeling, or enactment by a workflow management system

Workflow Management Coalition: The WFMC is a non profit organization with the objectives of advancing the opportunities for the exploitation of workflow technology through the development of common terminology and standards.

Workflow Management System: A system that completely defines creates and manages the execution of workflows through the use of software, running on one or more workflow engines, which is able to interpret the process definition, interact with workflow participants and, where required, invoke the use of IT tools and applications

Case: The representation of a single enactment of a process, using its own process instance data, and which is (normally) capable of independent control and audit as it progresses towards completion or termination

Process: A formalized view of a business process, represented as a co-coordinated (parallel and/or serial) set of process activities that are connected in order to achieve a common goal

Workflow: The automation of a business process, in whole or part, during which documents, information or tasks are passed from one participant to another for action, according to a set of procedural rules

Activity: A description of a piece of work that forms one logical step within a process. An activity may be a manual activity, which does not support computer automation, or a workflow (automated) activity

Multi-Agent System: Is a collection of software agents that work in conjunction with each other. They may cooperate or they may compete, or some combination of cooperation and competition

Business Process: A set of one or more linked procedures or activities which collectively realize a business objective or policy goal, normally within the context of an organizational structure defining functional roles and relationships

Agent: An agent is a computer system situated in some environment, and that is capable of autonomous action in this environment in order to meet its design objectives

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